Thursday, November 29, 2012

HOTEL CHECK OMAN, part 1, Six Senses Zighy Bay

Arriving at Six Senses Zighy Bay!

“Would you like to paraglide in to the hotel sir?”

Not your typical chauffeur’s question when travelling to a luxury hotel, but this is not a typical property. It is hthe only hotel located on a magnificent 1.6km stretch of golden sand beach, the bay is hemmed in on all sides by jagged mountains. With a philosophy of "redefining experiences" Six Senses offers this arrival option along with speedboat or 4WD.

For us the 4WD journey through the narrow mountain pass was adventure enough in itself so we skipped the paragliding option and enjoyed the still spectacular view down to the bay from our luxury vehicle instead of from a harness under a floating tent. To be fair, we did see many other guests take this option and it looked like a lot of fun and certainly rather more professionally set up than our previous paragliding experience in the Colombian countryside…but that’s another story.

A real beach resort, a sanctuary only 2 hours from Dubai
Located just 2 hours from Dubai, Six Senses Zighy Bay is actually in Oman but Dubai is the closest big airport and city so it was an easy option to combine a short stay here in this isolated beach resort to contrast with Dubai’s ‘busier’ feel. Incidentally Banyan Tree Al Wadi – see our previous post - is halfway between the two and a tour of all three destinations is great for those who get restless feet but don’t like long transfers (the longest is Zighy Bay to Dubai airport at just 2 hours).

Our instant feeling on arrival was “this is our kind of property” and our love of the place only grew through our stay. Barefoot luxury is the now oft used phrase to describe a place like this. Buildings are naturally styled to blend in to the environment and aside from the glimmering private pools (present for all rooms) you can see the design is to replicate a typical Omani village.

Privacy and space

The 81 stand-alone villas are scattered over a large area and once inside feel very private and spacious. The rustic nature of the interiors with their stone floors and aged wooden adornments is supplemented with rope door handles and a private courtyard with a sand floor. Each pool is infinity edged and well sized at around 20+ sq mtre and hidden from prying eyes with a bamboo fence.

Our private pool and a  background of rugged mountains

Stone floors, natural materials, rustic space and privacy

The 15 Beachfront Pool Villas have the advantage that you can open up the front of your courtyard for direct views and access to the ocean, which virtually laps at your door come high tide. The upgrade cost of around US$400 per night (depending on season) is significant but one which many will consider worth paying for such a view. For those happy to rise early, we can happily recommend a 5am start (perhaps just once during your stay) to see the sun rising from the ocean directly in front of you.  

Sunrise from the sea in front of your villa

As well as enjoying our villa’s private pool, we could also enjoy the hotel’s shared pool which was always quiet and boasts an excellent panorama of the sea in front of you and towering mountains rearing up behind. Then yet another option is the beach and sea itself - sunbeds are set up close to the water and served by a nearby bar, with the water itself warm and clear. If, like us, you are happy to spend so much time in the water that your skin wrinkles up to the extent that your feet and hands feel like they have aged 50 years then you are sure to enjoy the place.

 From meditation to levitation....

Six Senses is famous for its spas and this is no exception. Sauna and steam room are available to all resort guests but the spa treatments themselves are well worth trying. Highly trained and experienced therapists offer a range of treatments and Indian Head Massage is highly recommended…indeed the quality of treatments reaches those on offer in our Select Collection Stockholm Spa where we have Six Senses trained specialists J.
Further ways to enjoy your time at the hotel include experiences such as snorkeling/diving trips, sunset Dhow cruises, 4WD tours, water skiing and many more options. There are also some great complimentary activities run on a weekly schedule such as “martini mixology” at the bar, meditation at the spa pavilion and kayaking.

For our earth...

One of the most impressive aspects to the hotel (and indeed all Six Senses properties as a general rule) was their environmental work. All water is from the on-site well and supplied in 1 litre glass bottles (ever replenished which was important in the summer heat) rather than plastic. The other initiative is the “non-meat Tuesdays” that is operated. Guests may well not even notice this is happening, such is the extent of the seafood buffet and vegetarian options available on this day. These two initiatives have no negative impact on the enjoyment of your stay but over the course of a year have a really noticeable impact on the environmental footprint of the property and we are hopeful this kind of action can spread to other properties

Sensational dining experience

Speaking of food…it is an absolute MUST to try the Sense-on-the-Edge restaurant during your stay. Barely visible from the ground, the restaurant is tucked in the mountains and boasts sensational views and a unique atmosphere. Cocktails and canapés on the outdoor terrace began a decadent evening where we tried the chefs 7 course menu together with wine pairings. Unique dishes, excellent presentation and superb service, in a mountain location that seemed to get more awe-inspiring with every glass, made for a truly memorable evening.
Sense-on-the-Edge - roasted red pepper dish

We left the hotel the next morning as we had entered, with a 4WD journey through the mountains and a final look back to the hotel from the summit with very fond memories, full bellies and a slight headache.

Who to stay

Couples and families who want a beach holiday.

How to get to Six Senses Zighy Bay

90 minutes by car and 4WD from Dubai International Airport, 45 minutes from Ras Al Khaima

Select added value

1 bottle of wine in room. Complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is  available.

Friday, November 23, 2012

HOTEL CHECK MALDIVES, part 7, Six Senses Laamu

Bright sunshine at the small airport outside Male'. Here we are met by our hotel, Six Senses Laamu. To get to the resort, we travel with domestic flights to Kadhdhoo Laamu Atoll about 50 minutes south of Male', and then a short ride by speedboat.

Water villas come into view, threading over
the turquoise lagoon

Six Senses Laamu is part of the upscale chain Six Senses Resorts & Spas. We get a very warm welcome on the pier where our speedboat arrives, icy juice in coconuts decorated with orchids, and necklaces made of plaited palm leaves. Our GEM (Guest Experience Maker) will help us with everything from check-in, dinner reservations and surprises with ideas for excursions and activities.

Cocktail party - entertainment

Excursions by traditional Dhoni

Golf car takes us to our water villa of 108 sqm situated along the jetty ​​- here we can snorkel directly from the terrace, enjoying a bath in the tub that is made entirely of glass, or admire the fish through the glass floor to the bathroom.

Glass bath, glass floor...

Bathroom entertainment - peeps into
the underwater world

Everything is extremely tasteful: natural materials covering all high tech features so they do not intrude, and this villa has everything you could wish for – tast, charm and modern functionality.

Chic charm with natural materials
For families, we recommend the larger beach villas with two bedrooms and private pool –these villas are 185 sqm (285 sqm incl. Garden). Note that kids taken to Laamu should be able to swim ... most of the restaurants are built over water and most water villas stand over deep water.
Perfect reading material .... Slow Life
Private pool of beach villa - in the distance water villas
Six Senses Laamu offers six different restaurants with amazing food. The vegetables come from the resort's own organic garden and you'll always find the day's catch on the menu. If you love fresh fish and seafood, you're in the right place. Choose from exciting buffets with inspiration from around the world, or enjoy an exclusive a la carte. When you feel you have had enough of the white sandy beach or reading a book on the terrace, there are lots of activities to choose from.
You have yoga every morning, and we can heartily recommend a snorkel or dive trip with the resort's marine biologist. During our tour, we saw turtles, rays and fish every tint of the rainbow.

Here is a little Select movie of our swim with a turtle:

Select team snorkling


In a coconut shell

Good value for luxury in astounding surroundings. Six Senses Laamu is perfect for the newly in love. Here you will enjoy good food, pleasant lounge music and a romantic island that has everything. If you are holidaying with kids at Laamu they should be able to swim, as many restaurants including the breakfast restaurant are built over the water.

How to get to Six Senses Laamu

50 minute flight south to Kadhdhoo in the remote Laamu atoll then 25 minutes by speedboat.

Select added values

Bottle of wine and fruits on arrival. Early checkin and late checkout complimnetary subject to availability.

Max from our marketing department
all kitted out for a dive
...and relaxing too
Private, natural, chic...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

HOTEL CHECK MALDIVES, part 6, Jumeirah

Well known for their lavish hospitality, Jumeirah have opened two exceptional Maldives resorts. One is already a hideaway for celebrities; the other is heaven for families.

Select visited both on a recent trip to the Maldives...


Jumeirah Vittaveli

Only a year old – and a new concept  for the Maldives, especially adapted for kids. Easy to get to, Jumeirah Vittaveli lies only 20 minutes from Male' airport. We are greeted by singing and drums as we step ashore from the speedboat.

Jumeirah Vittaveli opened in autumn 2011 and has a total of 91 villas built over the water and on the beach front, all equipped with the latest technology.

Bath with a view
Our beach house is 108 sqm with private swimming pool and outdoor bathroom, located right on the water's edge.

Here we relaxed in front of our villa right on the beach

Our open air bathroom

If travelling with older kids and wanting to have separate bedrooms, we recommend beach suites with two bedrooms, two living rooms, a generous roof terrace spreading out over a whole 302 sqm. Of course, beach suites also have a private swimming pool.

Beach suite - one of the bedrooms - perfect for kids

View from second floor of the beach suite - pool below
The resort is a paradise for families with children, and they have the best "Teen & kids club" we have ever seen; the kids have their own pool (262 sqm), babysitting for infants and there are even spa treatments for children.

Phenomenal kids' pool
At Jumeirah Vittaveli you can choose from four restaurants, and only one is above the water, which is an advantage when you are traveling with small children. Our last night we ate in restaurant Fenesse, an a la carte restaurant which offers probably the best food in the Maldives. The service is fantastic and the food divine. Here you can relax and have a romantic dinner if you leave the kids with the phenomenal kids guards...

...and fun for the kids of course

How to get to Jumeirah Vittaveli

20 minutes by speedboat from Male' International Airport.


In a coconut shell

For couples or families who want high-tech contemporary style and good snorkling, convenient distance from Male'.

Select added value

A 200 USD spa voucher per villa per stay. Complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is available.

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

Walkways over glittering turquoise lagoon to the water villas.
We spend a few nights at ûberluxurious Jumeirah Dhevanafushi. After a domestic flight from Male' we ride in a speedboat to this tiny island in the Southern Maldives, only 350x230 metres. With only 38 suites, 17 in an independent resort above a reef 800m from the main island, this private resort abounds in luxury and allure.

Your own private infinity...

Upon our arrival all staff are at the jetty; they play drums and we are overwhelmed with necklaces of flowers, ice-cold champagne and cool towels. Each suite has a personal butler on hand around the clock; in-villa I find a nice welcome card from Select Collection, a bottle of champagne and beautiful little canapés.
Beach Reserve private pool

In our beach villa (Beach Revive) at 206 sqm you find everything! We have a pool of 20 sqm; at least 6 feet deep, and just the bathroom is twice as big as our apartment back home in Stockholm.

Restaurant Johara is adjacent to the water villas and you get here in 5 minutes by small boat that runs between the main island and water villas ....
Our sofa and our private pool and garden
All the accommodation is luxurious (and we think perhaps the best in the Maldives for those who like it lavishly sleek and contemporary)...
Luxury bathrooms
Contemporary double vanities

Romantic beds
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi has in just a few months become world famous and it is rumoured that Madonna and other celebrities have great fun on this little island, snorkeling and diving in paradise. The corals are completely untouched and here we swim among "black tip" reef sharks, turtles and rays.

Here is one of our little movies shot with an underwater camera...

After a long holiday and lots of sunshine, we need this. We treat ourselves to a relaxing massage in Talise spa. In the generous spa suite, which is located over the water, we find our selves dazed with bliss. Suddenly the therapist taps one on the shoulder and says, "Look dolphins" - outside the panoramic window looking out over the crystal clear water we see these playful aquatic mammals! Happiness is complete and we want nothing more than to stay a few more weeks.

Treatment with a view...

Workout with a view...

How to get to Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

1 hour 45 minutes from Male' International airport by private seaplane or 55 minutes by domestic flight to Kaadedhdhoo airport then 15 min by speedboat.


In a coconut shell

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is the resort for those who want a private holiday in abundance of luxury. Here you can enjoy lobster dinners and be constantly pampered and spoilt by staff. Here you can choose to stay over water in the generous water villas, or in any of the main island beach suites. Top quality food in all the hotel's four restaurants.

Select added value

A 200 USD spa voucher per villa per stay. Complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is available.

Arrival jetty with cargo nets for relaxing over water

Monday, November 5, 2012

HOTEL CHECK MALDIVES, part 5, Soneva Fushi

The ultimate luxury in tune with nature.

Chic, shaggy and quite divine...
Soneva Fushi is one of the older luxury resorts in the Maldives – this was built 17 years ago by Swedish Eva Malmström and her husband Sonu Shivdasani as a home. With the charm of natural materials and locally inspired decor they started a chain that was to become a successful collection of hotels of undisputable world class. At her properties Eva inspires guests, including world rulers and celebrities, to work for a better world.
Soneva Fushi is designed to reflect the feel of a Robinson Crusoe experience. There are no artificial lagoons or doctored stones. We are staying in a generously sized but cozy beach house of 395 sqm incl. garden with private pool. The villa is located on the beachfront, secluded amidst lush jungle growth.

Our own Crusoe style secluded beach access and sitting area
Rustic chic enfolded by natural beauty
Touches of warm colour and natural materials
It’s a perfect island for exploring on your own with your bike - there's plenty to explore. There are plentry of small mammals, and all charmed by the cute rabbits that to some extent seem to have taken over the island. They come to us and beg salad when we are eating lunch in one of the three restaurants.
Dining deliciously in rustic comfort
For a true environmentalist the concept and the environment at Soneva Fushi is fantastic; here they have their own recycling center, and the island produces its own drinking water bottled in glass bottles – you can of course also get it aerated.
Recycling goes on in the background creating pristine
surroundings and inspiring eco-consciousness
In the organic garden, the restaurant "Fresh in the garden" prepares food in the open kitchen with ingredients that are 100% from Baa atoll. The restaurant is elevated on pillars above the foliage and we enjoy a fabulous dinner under the stars. Adjacent to the restaurant is the observatory with a real telescope!
How fresh can you get ?

If you actually want to use your free wifi,
the tropics are still around you
But there is so much to experience for our Select team...

Wandering around the ponds...

The swimming pool
Massages in rustic peace
Palm-fringed views
Colourful sealife
PADI dive school

Our Select team explores under water

Brain corals and other precious riches of our planet
They call it "intelligent luxury"

Sonu and Eva have created a unique 5-star experience suitable for those who want a luxury eco-conscious holiday in peace and quiet, whether you are traveling as a couple or with family. A place to enjoy luxurious but simple and amazing service, each villa has its own butler Mr. or Ms. Friday. They help with anything you want around the clock ...
35 minute seaplane flight from Male' International Airport
You take a taxi in fact - an air taxi.

A bottle of wine and fruit on arrival; complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout for Select customers if space is available

Flying over the Maldives - irridescent blues and aquamarines